Author Archives: mike.merchant

Oak catkin mirid

Naturalists in Texas have no shortage of interesting insects to observe. If you were paying attention over the past couple of weeks, you may have noticed a small bug present in large numbers, especially around live oak trees. I’ve received several samples, some of which were sent by curious homeowners and some by pest control professionals. In some cases, they were observed clustering around doorways, other submitters just remarked that they were “very common right now.” Given the large number of small brown plant bugs on Bugguide, I… Read More →

Treehoppers

Every year brings its own oddities of entomology. Some years caterpillars strip trees bare in the spring, other years grasshoppers arrive in hoards.  This spring I’ve had a couple of reports of a small insect called a treehopper, sometimes in large numbers. Treehoppers are surely one of the most curious looking insects encountered by gardeners. They feed on plant sap, like many insects found in trees, but rarely seem to do much damage.  The most distinctive feature of the treehopper family is an upright, fin-like structure arising from… Read More →

When is Sevin not Sevin?

Any gardener who’s been around the block a few times has probably used the insecticide Sevin®, known generically as carbaryl. First introduced to the public in 1956, carbaryl was the first commercially successful product in the carbamate insecticide class.  Since then, it has been a pest control workhorse for vegetable gardeners and fruit growers.  It’s relatively low cost, broad spectrum activity, and relatively short (usually 3-day) interval between application and harvest made carbaryl a popular choice for growers.  Its relatively low oral and skin toxicity to mammals also made… Read More →

Bug bombs away

For many of us, the ultimate solution for cockroaches and bed bugs and other household pests is the “bug bomb.” Remember the old Raid commercials, where bugs flee from Mr. Raid, only to be followed home by the ominous cloud of death?  The implication is that the cloud from a bug bomb is like a heat seeking missile, able to follow pests into their deepest safe houses. So how well do bug bombs really work?  It turns out, not nearly as well as the animated ads suggest. Give… Read More →

A day in the life of a mint

  Growing plants is so much more interesting when you get to know your garden’s wildlife. Few of us will ever take the time to spend an entire day watching all the insects, spiders, birds, and reptiles attracted to our backyard garden. But if we did, we would probably be amazed at all the critters calling our yards “home.” Fortunately for us impatient folk, retired entomologist David Cappaert has done just that. Last summer, after noticing an unusual abundance of insect life attracted to just one kind of plant… Read More →

Give the love of insects this Christmas

Parents, here’s a Christmas idea for your kids. A hand lens, an insect net, a set of pins and an insect collection box could provide a doorway to the love of nature for your child. For some kids an insect collection can be the best way to learn about insects and connect with the outdoors. Photography is also good, but collecting engages all the senses in ways that a camera cannot. Many entomologists got their start collecting insects. An insect collecting kit as a Christmas present got one… Read More →

2nd Edition of Garden Insects of North America

The Master Gardeners I have trained over the years may remember the big stacks of books I bring with me to every insect class.  I love books and use them a lot in my job. One of the most useful references I use and recommend to Extension volunteers is the Princeton University Press Garden Insects of North America.  It’s been a great resource, and a bargain to boot, since it came out in 2004. Now Garden Insects of North America has a second edition.  The original author, Whitney Cranshaw… Read More →

Devastation of Monarch butterfly habitat in 2016

For all fans of monarch butterflies, a new article in American Entomologist may be of interest.  Lincoln Brower and colleagues describe the most devastating weather event for the monarchs since studies began 24 years ago. For many years it was known that monarch butterflies migrated; but not until 1975 did scientists discover that most monarchs in the eastern half of the United States migrate to a remote mountainous site in south-central Mexico. The Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve was designated a World Heritage Site in 2008, and is located… Read More →

Class labeled a “bug success”

By all accounts, this year’s Master Volunteer Entomology Specialist (MVES) training was a “bug success”. The 2017 class was held Sep 18-21 at the Texas A&M AgriLife Center at Dallas, and represented the 12th time we’ve offered the course since 2003. I hosted this year’s class with lots of help from colleagues. Every year’s MVES class agenda is unique. In addition to core sessions (general entomology, insect orders, integrated pest management, and insects of trees and landscapes), we heard talks on insects that eat other insects, beekeeping, native… Read More →

And now it’s mosquitoes

Hurricane Harvey continues to leave its mark on Texas. Besides the giant cleanup, hoards of mosquitoes are now descending in many areas. The pictures are impressive. Just a couple of examples are enough to make the point. The young man in the picture here was fortunate to have chosen a sturdy shirt before venturing out last weekend. The mosquitoes in this picture are probably in the genus Psorophora, (sore ROFF oh ruh) one of our largest, most painful and aggressive biters.  Psorophora mosquitoes have some impressive chops when it comes… Read More →